12 Lions state-bound
Kansas City, Kan. The Lansing High wrestling team made a noisy introduction to Class 5A on Saturday afternoon at the regional meet at Turner High School as 12 Lions qualified to the state meet.
LHS placed third as a team with 221.5 points. Defending state champion Turner won the team title with 244 points and Shawnee Heights was second with 224.5.
The 12 state qualifiers was a school record, LHS coach Ron Averill said, adding that the previous record had been eight qualifiers.
The day was filled with the usual suspects doing well and earning state berths as expected, but a handful of others also crashed the party and earned their chance to compete at the state meet Friday and Saturday at the Kansas Coliseum in Wichita.
Lansing's Kyle Buehler (125 pounds), Sean Flynn (130), Stewart Jones (135), Kyle Grape (140), Dennis Kessler (152) and Ryan Civils (189) all will be making return trips to the state meet after making strong showings Saturday.
Six other Lions will be making their first state appearances. Freshman Chance Thackston (103), freshman Nick Flynn (112), sophomore Bobby Hamilton (119), sophomore Casey Caton (160), junior Lance Fink (171) and junior Logan Ryan (215) all are first-time qualifiers.
Buehler, Grape and Nick Flynn were Lansing's only individual champions, while Hamilton and Sean Flynn placed second in their respective weight classes. Hamilton's finish may have been the biggest surprise of the day. After taking his licks all season against tough competition, Hamilton turned the tables Saturday and won back-to-back matches before falling in the finals.
"One of those things that I say multiple times throughout the year is that (regionals) is where preparation meets opportunity, and I'd like to think that he finally reached that point where the preparation met opportunity and he was able to put it all together," Averill said of Hamilton's march to the 119-pound finals. "He came in and we got to the third period and he broke the kid. He mentally broke the kid and was able to just dominate."
Thackston and Fink may have been the other surprise qualifiers for LHS. Fink began the season wrestling at 152 pounds but jumped to the 171-pound weight class to benefit the team. Despite giving up almost 20 pounds to some of his opponents, he put together a series of strong matches and gutted out an 8-7 win in the third-place match.
Meanwhile, Thackston had been one of Lansing's most improved wrestlers during the last month of the season. He began stringing together victories down the stretch and placed fourth last weekend at the Kaw Valley League meet before making another successful run at regionals.
"It was huge," Averill said of Thackston qualifying. "He went out there and won the big matches right off the start."
Ryan and Caton are two others who Averill expected to qualify for state and did, but he said their victories Saturday validated the work they'd done all year.
"We have the guys that have been winning all year like Logan Ryan and Casey Caton, and they've never made a state trip," Averill said. "This has been a huge thing for them and the ability to step up. Those guys have the opportunity to go into state with no expectations put on them and they can just have some fun and try to make things happen. And sometimes those guys are the ones that can truly be dangerous because they have nothing to lose."
A new addition in high school wrestling this year is the awarding of the regional coach of the year from each regional in the state. Averill was recognized following the meet as the Class 5A Turner Regional Coach of the Year.
For more about the regional wrestling meet, pick up the Feb. 24 edition of The Current.
Turner 244, Shawnee Heights 224.5, Lansing 221.5, Highland Park 110, Schlagle 68, Harmon 63, Wyandotte 48, Washington 33.5.
LHS state qualifiers:
103 - 4. Chance Thackston
112 - 1. Nick Flynn
119 - 2. Bobby Hamilton
125 - 1. Kyle Buehler
130 - 2. Sean Flynn
135 - 3. Stewart Jones
140 - 1. Kyle Grape
152 - 3. Dennis Kessler
160 - 4. Casey Caton
171 - 3. Lance Fink
189 - 3. Ryan Civils
215 - 3. Logan Ryan